“Without Mathematics, there’s nothing you can do. Everything around you is Mathematics. Everything around you is numbers.”

Shakuntala Devi – Mental calculator and writer, popularly known as the “Human Computer”

No lies told here. 

Everything in our world has a Mathematical grounding. Your smartphone, laptop, television, and car all happened because of Maths.

Cooking is Maths and so is construction, music, art, design, and sport.

And that’s why it is so vitally important that our children learn Maths at school and learn it well, says Crispian Lees, Head of Education at Advantage Learn.

The growing Maths gap in South Africa

Lees says a recent study by Stellenbosch University’s Research on Socioeconomic Policy unit (RESEP) came up with some disturbing findings, including that the failure rates of Grade 9s in Maths rose to 80% last year. RESEP also found that some Grade 9s write numbers backwards, and in an international Mathematics study, 54% of them achieved points below the international standard.

“None of this is good news. Maths is a scarce skill, and it is essential that learners are skilled in it to get meaningful employment and improve their standards of living. That is why at Advantage Learn, we are constantly looking to evolve our modules to adapt to education and market requirements like introducing the Neo Series,” says Lees.

Added to the deterioration in Maths skills is the declining rate of students writing Mathematics in South Africa. Year-on-year there has been a significant drop-off in matrics writing Mathematics and a declining pass rate for the learners who do write the exams, according to data from the Department of Basic Education.

“The drop in numbers should be of great concern. Performance in Mathematics matters for university entrance. Without it, school leavers are not eligible for programmes at universities in science or engineering or some in commerce. A decline signals that the doors of opportunity in these fields are closing to a growing number of students and the skills scarcity in these sectors is getting worse.”

Crispian Lees

Combining digital learning with a brick-and-mortar (school) environment.

Digital help is a great resource in our under-resourced schools. While technology will never replace good educators, educators who embrace technology will replace those who don’t, he says.

“Digital learning resources allow teachers to take their teaching to a new level. These digital resources allow educators to seamlessly migrate from different streams of learning. They can also remediate gaps from previous years or advance gifted learners. 

“What digital resources also bring with them is real-time analytics for teachers to see what learners know and where the gaps in their knowledge are.

“Teachers are incredibly busy people, and when learners fall behind with Maths, it usually requires them to spend time they really don’t have to try and bring individual learners up to speed.”

A digital resource means that teachers can assign extra work for those falling behind or those who are failing to grasp certain concepts and that the teacher (and parents) can get proper feedback from the digital programmes especially when learners are working from home or away for a period of time.

Lees says learners can access a wealth of digital resources to support them outside the classroom – all without being in the presence of a teacher. “This teaches children to embrace self-learning, which is on its own an essential skill.  Digital resources, like our Neo Series Mathematics resources, actively test learners’ understanding of the subject, they get to try examples and get marked feedback,” he says.

Lees says his company has developed a digital programme to address exactly these issues. Headed by experienced Maths educator Trish Pike, the digital offering, called the Neo Series, is a flexible, blended learning experience that includes over 27’000 minutes of high-quality Mathematics instructional videos covering the full Grade 8 to 12 CAPS syllabus. The Neo Series aims to promote active learning inside and outside the classroom and give teachers, schools, and parents an array of tools that work anytime, anywhere – enhancing and supporting the classroom environment to evolve beyond the traditional textbook-based instruction. 

Neo Series is a flexible, blended learning experience that includes over 27’000 minutes of high-quality Mathematics instructional videos covering the full Grade 8 to 12 CAPS syllabus.

“The offering works as an outcomes-based design which provides curriculum-aligned teaching and assessment and a cutting-edge online learning management system. For those schools that are struggling to fill their Mathematics educator positions because of an undersupply of Maths educators, this is an absolute must-have to ensure the learners’ Maths learning is not compromised,” he says. 

“The Neo Series aims to help high school learners of varying abilities to improve their Mathematics, Further Studies Mathematics and Physical Science performance. The resources also support schools by adding an important support layer to their in-person teaching, enabling schools to seamlessly transition between in-person and online teaching modes,” Lees says.The Neo Series is currently available for schools in Maths Grades 8 to 12 and Further Studies Mathematics, and it covers the full high school curriculum.

This article was originally published on 14 Jul 2022

About the author
Crispian Lees

Cris is our Head of Education at Advantage Learn. A chemical engineer by qualification, he is passionate about Maths and Science education and is a proud South African and Durbanite.

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